UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During an OLLI at Penn State trip to New Mexico, Julie Stevenson was able to check off something from her bucket list, attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
“It is hundreds and hundreds of hot air balloons, all being blown up at once. Even if you are not going up, you can stand there in the middle of it all while they are getting inflated. Then they all go up in what is called the mass ascension,” Stevenson said. “It is breathtaking. I mean, I can't even describe it. It is kind of like the Grand Canyon. You just have to see it.”
The trip was one of many travel opportunities offered by OLLI at Penn State, which range from one-day local excursions to multiday international adventures. The trips include unique learning and sightseeing, opportunities to create camaraderie among trip participants, and great food. OLLI at Penn State members are the first to learn about upcoming travel, however, the opportunities are open to nonmembers as well. Often family members or friends choose to travel along with OLLI members.
The trip to New Mexico was Stevenson’s first time traveling with OLLI. She is a member of OLLI at Penn State York. As an avid traveler, she has taken trips with other groups in the past, but she said because of the great experience she had with OLLI at Penn State, she already plans to travel with the group again next year, this time on the upcoming Spain’s Classics and Portugal trip in March.
“Traveling with OLLI was absolutely perfect for me. I am a solo traveler and having someone else do all the legwork and all the arrangements and say, ‘OK, you show up here and we’ll take care of everything,’ was perfect,” Stevenson said. “I met a lot of new people, which was great. We all have the common bond of Penn State and the local communities, so it was great, too.”
2024 OLLI at Penn State Travel opportunities include:
- Annapolis: A Historical Museum without Walls: April 2-3, 2024
- Cumberland, Maryland: Ride the Rails: May 16, 2024
- Painted Canyons of the West featuring Utah’s Five National Parks: June 2-10, 2024
- Shades of Ireland featuring Northern Ireland: Aug. 29-Sept. 10, 2024
After taking previous trips to France and Sicily with OLLI at Penn State, Pat and Mike Markowski said they are planning a full itinerary this upcoming year. They have booked the Spain and Utah trips and also are considering the Northern Ireland opportunity.
Since moving to the area and joining OLLI at Penn State two years ago, the retired teachers said traveling with likeminded people has helped them make personal connections in their new hometown.
“When you travel with OLLI, you not only get to know the people you are spending 10 days with, but you see them around town and at other OLLI activities. It is a way to build friendships, and when you move to a new town, you need friends,” said Pat Markowski.
Mike Markowski agreed and said the connection to OLLI at Penn State helps to make people feel more comfortable, especially when traveling someplace new.
“While traveling you have an identifiable group that is OLLI. You form that small group bond very quickly. We are all watching out for each other,” said Mike Markowski.
As a history buff, Mike Markowski appreciates that OLLI at Penn State offers courses to enrich the experience of visiting new places. Before traveling to Sicily, he took a course that highlighted the history of the island, including its ancient Greek ties.
“It was really interesting because when we were in the museums and we saw how much the Greeks contributed to Sicily’s development as a Greek colony, it just tied it all together and made it more interesting,” he said.
After suffering a knee injury a year ago that left her out of commission for a few months, Pat Markowski said she is excited to get out and see more of the world in 2024.
“I think in this upcoming year and moving forward, we want to see as much as possible,” she said. “There is so much to see. I like where OLLI is looking to go and hope to partake in as many of those trips as possible.”
OLLI at Penn State offers community members aged 50 or better the opportunity to learn, explore and connect through educational experiences, travel, social and volunteer opportunities.
More information about travel opportunities and more can be found here or by calling 814-867-4278.
OLLI at Penn State is program of Penn State Outreach.